Dark Arts, Part 2-The Pretty Side

In my last post, I introduced some of the Oz characters brought to life by the penstrokes of John R. Neill, illustrator. Most of the inhabitants of Oz are strange and many of them appear downright sinister–some of them could DEFINE sinister. But Neill has drawn some beautiful characters as well. Glinda, the good witch, is the lovely mom of Oz, taking care of business and solving problems. She has an unfortunate preference for hats that resemble the old cup-and-ball toys, but other than that seems sensible. Here she is:

Glinda of Oz copyright page

I have to wonder what she is thinking at this moment. She has a meaningful look on her face, and that gesture seems to imply something…

 

Here Glinda is intent upon calibrating a device to save the day. That's the Wizard of Oz, leering in the background.

Here Glinda is intent upon calibrating a device to save the day. That’s the Wizard of Oz, leering in the background.

Then there is Dorothy Gale, honorary princess, and Ozma, young fairy Queen of Oz.

Here, Dorothy and Ozma appeal to Mist Maidens to help them cross a ravine, which they do.

Here, Dorothy and Ozma appeal to Mist Maidens to carry them across a ravine, which they do. Perhaps I have seen too many horror movies, but I imagine them getting to middle, then being pulled down to the bottom and eaten.

 

One of my favorite pictures, even if Ozma is looking quite a bit more mature than her character in the book.

Ozma, re-imagined as a 1920’s starlet.

And, finally, the three together…

Glinda of Oz The End

Am I imagining it or is there an interesting tension in their expressions? What are they looking at? In Oz, it could be anything.

 So here we have the whimsical, not the frightening. But because scary is often fun, I will return to some of the more nightmarish images in the next post.

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Dark Arts, Part One

Here is a first world problem: I got a new smartphone and all the apps are insisting on syncing my contacts and location and searches and tethering me invisibly, irrevocably to the cybersphere. I feel like the apps are whispering about me behind my back. Hungry whispers. I would like to go back to pencil and paper, now, please. Not really. But it is possible to yearn for some privacy even as one reaches out through the world wide web.

So, because I am in a darkish mood, and because I wanted to bring you a gift after my long hiatus, I would like to share with you some exquisitely creepy illustrations by John R. Neill that recently caught my eye and breath. The illustrations are from Glinda of Oz by Frank L. Baum, and the ones I am sharing today are from the pastedown inside the front cover. The image as a whole is stunning:

 

Glinda of Oz inside cover 1

But here are a few of my favorites pulled out:

 

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

 

 

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand...

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand…

 

 

Oh! Startled chicken!

Oh! Startled chicken!

 

 

The card bird: charming, bizarre, the whole package, really.

The card bird: charming and bizarre, the whole package, really. I also like the face by his left foot because that is how I look in most of my photos.

 

If you have never read the books, you should do so. Oz is a vast world better viewed through words, line sketches and the reader’s imagination than on a screen. I would be interested to hear what catches your eye in the illustration. If you like this post, let me know and I will share a few more images.

A Quick Breath

I am eating a bowl of cereal, standing at the counter watching the sink fill with soapy water. The dishwasher I have just loaded is humming, and the ingredients for my son’s birthday cake await at my elbow. There is an article waiting to be written, company to prepare for, and all my “wanna-do’s” (paint my toenails, push through to the next step on the novel, play with my art & craft arsenal) whispering “pick me! pick me!” I don’t even realize how tight my breath has become until I glance up from the sink and see the maple trees outside my window, leaves dancing in the sun. A hundred shades of green flicker and lift in the light. A deep breath of appreciation slips in deactivating the taut muscles holding me at attention. Right, breathe. As easy and as difficult as that. Lift your eyes up and out. Breathe.
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It Lurks Above

So, today’s post was going to be about graduation and chrysalises (chrysali?) opening and little birds leaving nests, but I have bigger topics than blah-blah-blah life transitions. At a time when there are many very important things happening, I happen to be  preoccupied with spiders. I haven’t wanted to say anything before because if people associate you with the word “infestation” or “pestilence” or “nest of arachnoid horrors” they don’t want to visit anymore, but things aren’t improving as I’d hoped, and I can’t keep walking around pretending it is all okay. No, every morning I walk around like this:

No, Mom, I couldn't put on lipstick for the photo. Couldn't.

No, Mom, I couldn’t put on lipstick or a little blush for this photo. Or comb my hair. Or change out of my bathrobe. Well, I  could have done one or more of those things, but obviously, I didn’t.

I walk around like this searching for long legged yellow spiders, about three quarters of an inch across (including appendages.) They prefer the ceiling, but I have found them dangling in the air right in front of my face, and on the countertop six inches from where I have set down my coffee. I have seen them skittering manically and sitting still as death. Deceptively still, because they are rarely dead. The skittering begins after I attack them with my weapon of choice: a grabber clutching a paper towel. If I am lucky and hit it just right, I’ll squish it immediately and usually messily, but I am more likely to alarm it (hence the skittering) and knock it loose, so it falls to the floor (more skittering) or on me (screaming and gesticulating–me, not the spider.) My secondary weapon is the vacuum cleaner with the upholstery attachment on the long extension. This was great at first, because the spider rarely ran or fell, but we have a universal vac that sucks everything into a container in the basement and I have begun having nightmares about what is waiting for me down there. That thing is going to have to be emptied someday. Someday soon.

It wasn’t always like this. The first year we had these spiders I saw one and I thought, Okay, spiders are good, they eat other insects and they rarely cause harm. As long as you aren’t ON me or NEAR me or ON STUFF I TOUCH, I can live with you, Mr. Spider. But it wasn’t just one spider, it never is. I read once that on Earth, you are rarely more than a few meters from a spider. Disturbing, I thought, but I can handle that. Most of those have to be inside the walls or otherwise concealing themselves. It really is only the spiders I see that bother me. Well, the ones I see AND the ones biding their time in my vacuum container plotting their revenge. Once I realized that my friend Mr. Singular Spider had broken our truce by actually being multiple spiders, I attempted catch and release. With terrible results. Spiders are quite fragile, you know? You might try to trap one under a jar and slide a piece of cardboard in to contain it, but unspeakable things will happen and you will end up killing it anyway, probably out of mercy and with revulsion at the monster you yourself have become. Or that might be just me. Spider bombs! my neighbor says. Best thing! Probably yes, they are. I don’t know enough about them. They are probably very benign to everything except spiders and aren’t really the clouds of death I imagine settling on my laptop, dishes, doorknobs and bedding. Also, a spider who survives a spider bomb would not under any circumstances mutate into a super spider, therefore I would never have to worry about that. Nope.

So now every morning I walk the house, hunting spiders, apologizing to every single one I kill, obsessing over whether its kin are watching and how they feel about the whole spectacle, worrying about that vacuum container that I now imagine is pulsing with retribution. And then I move on to the gauzy egg sacs, hidden at the edge of the ceiling, looking for all the world like just another bead of popcorn and holding hundreds more skittering, web-spinning, tickly-legged vermin.  These things are a lesson on  the wages of the sin of procrastination. Have you put off doing a term paper until the last minute? Ignored a dish of leftovers in the fridge until it is unrecognizable? These are nothing compared to finding that an egg sac you meant to clean up has disgorged its contents and it is only a matter of time before you will be swimming in the things. Frankly, I am wasting valuable time right now writing about it. Back to the front lines, for despite my trepidation, this is war. Until one of them pulls a Charlotte and spins me a surrender message indicating their retreat I will be annihilating every one of them I can reach. They can keep their business outside, and, okay,  I may turn a blind eye in my garage, but that is where I draw the line. NOT in MY HOUSE.

Does It Make An Impression?

I had such a nice thing happen today. I got permission from Marian Call to use one of her songs to accompany a quirky video I did last summer when the office where I worked was shutting down and nobody but me came in for days at a time and all I was doing was packing up and throwing things out and wondering what I was going to do with the next part of my life and it felt like a funeral. So I dressed casually and listened to my iPod and did the things on my to-do list. One of the things to-do was to remove this huge mural:

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It was a media relations agency. It was not snowing in the office when I took this picture in case that is what you are thinking. That is dust on my lens which is so embarrassing, but there is nothing I can do about it now. Because, as I said, the mural had to come down. There are no more retakes. The tree was made from one long piece of sticky plastic that came off quite nicely with the help of a blow dryer. Each letter was the same kind of thing. Almost right away, I was thinking, “this is kind of cool, with the music on and the slow, stretchy release of the plastic creating an empty space in the clutter.” Fortunately, after I got the first five lines down plus the question mark at the end, I thought, “Maybe someone ELSE is odd enough to find this interesting.” So I pulled out my smartphone and recorded this video and later added in the music of Marian Call, who I adore and who was gracious enough to let me share it with you. Please watch, and if you like, please share. Please also click on Marian’s name anywhere in this post to listen to more of her music on her bandcamp website. Thanks!

Goodbye, Winter…

This winter has been like a crazy houseguest that doesn’t know when it is time to leave, and, just when you think you will have to murder her, she makes a grand gesture and departs. You don’t miss her, but you remember why you liked her in the first place.

(Photos taken this morning.)

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